SYLH - Report - 4 months to 30th April 2015

11-May-2015

Since our last report in December 2014, Lindsay Bourke and Bob Davey met with Forestry Tasmania senior planners to clarify  their claim in their Management Plan that 46% of high quality accessible leatherwood in Tasmania was not being used by beekeeper.

At the meeting which was held at Forestry Tasmania`s offices at Perth, it became evident that Forestry Tasmania had no firm evidence on which to base their claim. The officers representing Forestry Tasmania at the meeting admitted that the mapping on which they were relying was a computer based desk top production, based on indicative aerial photographic assumptions which by their own previous admission was not reliable and should not be relied on. No ground proofing had been carried out.

The officers also stated that the unsubstantiated statement in the Management Plan should not have been made and publicised. It was pointed out that the statement was by implication derogatory towards the Industry, undermining its long held and consistently argued opinion that the high quality accessible leatherwood resource was finite and was already being fully utilised.

Forestry Tasmania was then asked to supply the mapping they had used to underpin their statement and these were finally received late in March. These are still being examined and ground proofed by beekeepers but an early review shows that there is little if any unutilised and accessible high quality leatherwood in the areas shown on the mapping as having these qualities.

Not only has the public statement in the management Plan mislead the industry but also the Public and most likely the relevant Government ministers.

Forestry Tasmania officers apologised at the meeting for any harm which may have been done to the Industry`s reputation and are now inviting an open consultation on the issue, something which should have been done before the Plan`s publication.

As previously advised the claims in the Management Plan were used to argue that the existence of the unutilised leatherwood excused any collateral damage to the leatherwood resource caused by wood harvesting.

Unfortunately these incorrect claims by Forestry Tasmania were picked up by the media and formed part of an article in the Saturday Mercury  late in March. We are now endeavouring to have the record set straight in a follow up article. We are also asking that the claim be withdrawn by Forestry Tasmania.

Other work included preparing a submission to the Government in relation to the World heritage Wilderness draft Management Plan. This was adopted and lodged by the TBA. The Plan made mention only of the need for access based only on the importance of honey production,

No mention was made in the Draft Plan of the critical importance of beekeeping to the pollination of a majority of the food grown in Tasmania. The writer believes that while there was no deliberate attempt to misrepresent the industry and its broad importance, it does show a continuing lack of knowledge about this at Government level.

Our coupe monitoring work is continuing with 3 coupes in particular being assessed and submissions made for retention of both mature and immature regrowth leatherwood. While Forestry Tasmania have shown some sympathy for the Industry`s position and requirements, Forestry Tasmania`s officers have made it quite clear that any concessions to Stake holders, (the Industry being a major stakeholder in State Forest), must not make attaining the wood production quotas difficult or impossible. These quotas of about 137000cubic metres of saw log, have been set by the Government in the new Forest legislation. So we have sympathy but no action.

The result of this is that Forestry Tasmania cannot even follow the Guidelines on State Forest created by one of their senior planning officers in 2000, and have stated so. In fact, not being mandatory, the guidelines have seldom been followed since their inception.

The irony of this position is that it directly contrary to the Principles in the FSC Standards and will, while being implemented, be a barrier to the granting of Certification, something the Government are requiring Forestry Tasmania to obtain.

Notwithstanding this apparent impasse, and to increase our pressure on Forestry Tasmania and subsequently on the Government, we are drawing new Guidelines for Leatherwood in State Forest with mandatory provisions which replace the current Guidelines, which provide for voluntary compliance only. They will also require each coupe to be assessed with an active beekeeper`s involvement at an early stage of planning. With that in mind, when the Guidelines are completed and with the help of senior beekeepers, we will submit them to Forestry Tasmania with a copy to FSC and the appropriate State Government Ministers and start pressing/submitting for a meaningful outcome.

Parallel to this we will support and prepare for a meeting between TBA Representatives and the appropriate State Government Ministers for a change in Government policy to take into account the Beekeeping Industry`s requirements for not only survival but expansion.  Why expansion? Well .........  the Government has announced it has plans for a tenfold increase in Tasmania`s food production by 2050. How much more beekeeping and honey bee pollination will be required to achieve that?

The change to Government policy would require not only flexibility in the wood production quotas but also an amendment to the Forest Practises Code to provide the force of law for the protection of leatherwood resource during wood harvesting. We have a draft amendment to the Code on the drawing board and this will also require the inclusion of an accurate but simple definition of Leatherwood importance to the Beekeepers, as referred to in the next paragraph.

Finally to make any planning and wood harvesting regime work around the needs of the Beekeeping Industry in a practical way, an easily understood definition of leatherwood resource important to beekeepers (mature and immature), must be in  place, agreed by the Industry and FT, and used in all wood harvesting planning. Forestry Tasmania have agreed that this would make it much clearer to their planners when planning a harvesting coupe. This definition  is proving particularly difficult to draft. Beekeepers know what is important to them when they inspect a coupe, but this is only on a coupe by coupe basis.  We and Forestry Tasmania believe that a definition, to be of any practical use, must always be able to be clearly understood by FT planners whether they have a beekeeper present at the time or not.

ARE THERE ANY BEEKEEPERS WHO WOULD BE PREPARED TO HELP US WITH PUTTING TOGETHER SUCH A DEFINITION?  EVEN IF WE ONLY RECEIVE A DRAFT OF AN IDEA FROM OTHERS IT WILL HELP IMMENSELY.

Any such definition must include immature regrowth leatherwood as this underpins the future of the Industry.

This has now become even more important after senior FT planners have advised us that an FT planner when assessing a proposed coupe area, assesses the leatherwood maturity on the basis of its wood content coupled with apparent age maturity, and not on its potential nectar production capacity. This was very disappointing to hear after more than 20 years of trying to have FT recognise the extent and nature of the resource important to the Industry.

On a more social note, Hedley Hoskinson and Bob Davey were invited to join Lindsay Bourke to attend the field day at Waratah  attended by more than 200 Victorian and Tasmanian Beekeepers and address the meeting held at lunchtime.

Lindsay gave an excellent overview of the Tasmania Industry as well as demonstrating the Tasmanian Beekeeping Practise at one of his nearby apiary sites. The weather was "foul" but the whole event was a great success thanks largely to the organisational skills and hard work of the president of the NW Beekeepers Association, Liz Douglas.

Bob and Hedley were given the opportunity to address the meeting  on both this Association`s activities and the Industry`s resource problems, and what could be achieved if the entire Industry worked together to find solutions and substantially speak with one voice. We encouraged the Victorians to all work together to overcome any resource and access problems they may have, and we understand they do have a few.  My memory of the event was both its success and the level of tiredness at the end of a 16 hour day (of which 10 and a half hours was travelling).

  Bob Davey (President),